12/01/2018 11:35, Report by Gemma Thompson in Dubai
There’s a well-known saying: ‘A change is as good as a rest’ and, in Manchester United’s case this week, it’s fair to say a week in the Dubai sun with a gap of 10 days between matches has equated to both those things.
The five-day warm weather training camp has proved to be a welcome escape from the grey skies and chilly temperatures in our great city of Manchester. On the back of 11 games across five weeks in December and January, having an uninterrupted period of pure training has been a refreshing change for Jose Mourinho and his coaching staff who have simply had to focus on preparation and recovery between the barrage of matches in recent times, with little time to do any other work with the squad.
There’s something about a blast of Vitamin D which does wonders for the soul and marrying that with the world-class facilities on offer at the Nad Al Sheba complex, a refuge for a host of the world’s best sports teams and athletes all year round and you’ve got a great starting point to kick off 2018 and the second half of a busy and important campaign.
“Good weather is always good!” joked assistant manager Rui Faria, when he spoke to us before the final day of training on Thursday. “Our idea [for coming here] was basically to have a good period to work well in good weather conditions with good facilities and to get the opportunity to have more time with the players than we normally have, especially after the busy Christmas period. This trip has allowed us to put some ideas to the team, work well with the players and bring the tactical ideas to them.”
Spending time together off the pitch has been equally as beneficial as the work done on it too.
“It’s very important to have the players together with all the staff in a different environment,” Rui adds. “It’s been a very good time together and it helps to keep the team stronger and that’s what we want for the games that are coming.”
As Rui says, time together off away from the pitch has further boosted an already very strong team spirit among the group. And group dinners, relaxing by the pool and an even a trip to the races have also helped with rest and rejuvenation as the Reds count down to a return to action on Monday, at home to managerless Stoke City.
It seems, while United have loved being in Dubai, there’s mutual affection in return with Nad Al Sheeba director or sport Rob Wadsworth, insisting: “It’s been wonderful to have Manchester United here. It has brought a real buzz to the complex, to the staff and also for Dubai. Hopefully, United can get the most out of this break and get the most out of the rest of the season.”
Jose Mourinho will certainly hope that will be the case. Indeed, the United boss talked about the importance of being able to spend time with his squad honing tactical work before the Reds left for the Middle East on Monday and the manager’s intense Dubai training sessions have enabled him to do just that.
While the week has been about finding the perfect balance between hard work and recuperation, there is certainly no sign of the team’s competitive streak wavering whatsoever as you’ll have seen from the many player posts on Instagram bigging up ‘the winning team’ on Wednesday and Thursday following the training match victories after the squad were split into two to battle it out. Social media debates over who can perfect the best dive into the swimming pool – another hugely impressive feature at the Nad Al Sheba Complex – has also kept the banter levels at a high among the squad.
Ultimately though, this week has been about preparation for the remaining five months of the 2017/18 season and whatever people may say and however the league table might read, this group of players remain as ready as ever to fight for the United cause in the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup. A combination of a change in scenery, rest and hard work will stand Mourinho’s men in the best possible stead to do exactly that. And maybe, just maybe, the sun might follow us home to Manchester!
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The opinions in this story are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Manchester United Football Club.